In the Zone with Global Drum Project…
By Blair Jackson
Tabla master Zakir Hussain onstage with Global Drum Project
at the Warfield Theater, SF, 12/1/06.
Photo: David W. Clark
The ever-busy Mickey Hart is also hard at work at his studio on a new CD by Global Drum Project, which in its current configuration is a mind-blowing quartet of percussion giants: Mickey, Sikuru, Zakir Hussain and Giovanni Hidalgo. “We’re reaching the end of the recording,” Mickey comments, “and we’re hoping to tour in the fall. It’s been great getting the guys together again — stirring it up and creating some new rhythms for a new day.”
Of course, all four of these guys have played together often through the years on various projects of Mickey’s — he and Zakir go all the way back to the Diga Rhythm Devils in the early ’70s — but it’s been a while since there’s been a conscious effort to create another Global Drum Project unit. “It feels really fresh,” he says. “That’s the good thing about doing it every once in while and not working it to death — not going out and touring twice a year or whatever. This way, there’s still the freshness of getting together and discovering what we can do. You know me — in the studio, I’m a first-take guy. I like freshness and spontaneity. I like to get in there and just start playing and rolling tape on everything; going after it and getting in the zone on that kind of percussive level. It’s quite a challenge to get in the zone with guys of that caliber, because it’s like an über-zone of rhythmic dexterity,” he laughs.
How do the tunes, such as they are, come about? “Some of them start out with just me and Zakir just playing,” he says. “As you know, I have a rather formidable array of percussive devices, or tools, and I lay ’em all out and we just go at ‘em. The room is ‘hot’ — it’s miked everywhere. What I did is I planned a few days of activities; it was like rhythm camp! Sometimes I’ll give the engineer instructions to once in a while to bring up some sort of process [reverbs, delays, etc.] in our ears so we have a motif for the evening’s festivities, or that day and evening’s festivities. And then we just go and see where the music takes us. And if it’s working right, you go to places that are new and unique.
“The thing with the four of us is — just like with me and Billy — we share a common sense of how to render a groove; the best way to create a compelling pulse. Everyone is comfortable with each other’s way of doing that, just like me and Bill. And you know when you’ve found the groove; it’s a very obvious thing. You’re able to have rhythmic conversations within it and it feels relaxed and comfortable — even if it’s actually very intense.
“We went out on the road and played up and down the [West] Coast to see if we could pull off this vision of the group, which is a four-piece percussion band, and I think we did — the reviews were stunning; all the feedback has been extremely positive. It’s not exactly like the original Global Drum Project, which was sort of a virtuoso’s vehicle. This is more a groove trip, and of course these days there are electronics in it. We even have an operator working the sound design — Jonah Sharpe — and we’re able to call up the memory banks of my percussion collection, which I’ve digitized. Between the electronics and this incredible memory bank, we can paint in colors we could never could before. So a four-piece percussion group can sound enormous, using spatial effects and all these other fun kind of things. We’re trying to take it to the next dimension.”
More on that as it develops, too.
My 1997 Zakir Hussain/Mickey Hart Planet Drum poster is framed and right here in my studio where I can enjoy it daily. Your work is featured on my page at myspace so hopefully more people will find you. When I get rich I'll be sure to donate tons of money for the music preservation project in DC.
Keep on dancin'
Dead to the Core